Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Wednesday’s pow-wow

Editorial 2

Reports of the closed-door meeting the State Government convened with Naga tribal hohos on August 18 last on ~ Mediation between Zeliang and Sumi tribes regarding boundary demarcation of Peren and Dimapur districts; Women reservation in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs); Naga Tribunals for adjudication as per Naga Customary Law and Issue of appointment of Gaon Buras (GBs) in urban areas; and, the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) ~ are very educative. They throw light on the ideological, socio-cultural and political thought processes of our present political leadership and their understanding of the content, characteristics and context of the past and present Naga society. In fact, their reading, understanding and analyses of the history of Naga society ~ gleaned through the prism of the available written historical and administrative accounts, as also the available accounts of our oral traditions. Since we have only heard an account of what is reported to have been said in this consultative meet and we are yet to hear of what the tribal hohos said ~ if indeed they said anything on these issues ~ it is too early to analyze and comment on the contents of the meeting. However, we must question whether any perception and perspective can be completely objective and totally devoid of the interests, motives and agenda of the authors, especially in matters of shaping crucial institutions and designing the future history of any society and State. These then fore-fronts issues of experience, expertise, knowledge, wisdom, past performance and acceptability. The same question could be asked of tribal hohos ~ the political formation of which emerged in recent decades. We cannot ignore that re-interpretation(s) of everything under the umbrella of history and politics are pet projects of political entities in power for certain set objectives ~ clearly seen happening in India today. Now, as per media reports, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said: “… customary laws, practices and traditions of Nagas were also recognized and safeguarded in Clauses 7, 8 and 9 of the 16-Point Agreement and Article 371 (A). Also, Clause 8 provides for the institution of local self-government, such as village councils, range councils and tribal councils. Accordingly in 2009 the State Government amended the Nagaland Village Council Acts, 1978. The title of the Act was changed as Nagaland Village & Tribal Counsels’ Act 1978. The new Section 2(f) was inserted, states “Tribal Councils” means the Village Tribal Councils/Tribal Hohos/Unions/Organisations existing in Nagaland, and constituted by various tribes in accordance with their respective traditions, customary practices and usages. The tribal hohos and the apex bodies of the tribal hohos, therefore have a special place and role in the Government of the State” adding “Clause 9 further provides that for the cases decided according to customary law, the Naga tribunal shall act as the Appellate Court.” This, of course, we understand are Rio’s perceptions, perspectives and opinions on role of tribal bodies and of the Nagaland Village & Tribal Counsels’ Act 1978. The Bar Association of Nagaland has another view. Clearly, this issue then needs to be further analyzed and discoursed on, which entails wider public participation ~ especially of experts in jurisprudence and Constitutional Law. Ditto for the issue of women’s reservation ULBs and the RIIN. It is also understood that Rio is pushing his Government’s perceptions and perspectives on these issues, which has the potential to raise other issues in the process. As regards women’s 33% reservation in ULBs, it is noticeable that while Rio said: “I would also like to say here that as our society progresses we need new institutions, such as ULBs…” he also made no commitment on implementing the reservation. Neiba Kronu underscored this when he reportedly said that proper consultations are need including with women organizations and opined “We feel that State-specific modalities and rules need to be framed and an Act passed in the State Assembly will be much better”, adding “We don’t want to discriminate against women but everybody should come to an understanding before ULB elections are held in the State”. The most ironical aspect about Wednesday’s consultative meet was Rio reportedly saying: “We cannot become prisoners of our traditions…” Ironical because the said consultative meet was a typical example and exercise of our traditions and created the impression of an all-knowing all-male “Grand Tribal” pow-wow deciding their fate and that of lesser mortals ~ as smoke lazily twirls towards the heavens. And that smoke most likely emanating from the gun-powdered fire of toxic masculinity.